How to avoid getting sick on holiday

Eight tips for staying healthy when you’re abroad

Marcus Webb – Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Marcus Webb | Independent Money Mentor

Editor of Delayed Gratification and independent journalist


When you’re lying in your hotel room bed in the middle of the day, watching the TV in a language you don’t understand and desperately craving the comfort of your own bedroom – and bathroom – you know your holiday hasn’t gone quite as planned. Whether you’re on a city break or soaking up the sun on a beach holiday, here are eight top tips to avoid getting sick while on your hols.

Save your skin

Aussies of a certain vintage will remember the ‘Slip-Slop-Slap’ ad campaign of the 1980s. While the ads featuring a dancing seagull were a bit naff, Sid’s advice has stood the test of time: if you’re facing prolonged exposure to the sun you should slip on long-sleeved clothing, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. You’ll protect yourself against an increased risk of skin cancer and, slightly less importantly, you won’t spend the rest of your holiday looking like a radioactive prune. 

Look after your tummy

Whether it’s ‘Delhi belly’ in India, ‘Montezuma's revenge’ in Mexico or the ‘Timbuktu number twos’ in Mali (we may have invented that last one), a dicky tummy or travellers' diarrhoea is a sure-fire way to blemish a holiday. There’s no guaranteed way to keep the food poisoning at bay, but studies have shown that probiotics usually decrease the duration of your terribly inconvenient illness. 

Reduce the booze

It’s tempting to give yourself a free pass. Yes, you’re on holiday. Yes, you earned your holiday. And yes, you can drink in the middle of the day if you want to and nobody will judge you. Just bear in mind that alcohol is a diuretic and causes dehydration, and every year a large number of British holidaymakers suffer booze-related accidents and injuries and end up in hospital. Which is one way to experience local hospitality, we suppose. 

Carry water

If there’s a single golden rule for avoiding holiday sickness it’s to stay hydrated. It can prevent headaches and nausea, help tackle jet-lag, and reduce the chance of overheating in hot climates. To find out whether the tap water is safe to drink, ask a friendly search engine rather than a friendly local. While – as you may have heard – the internet does make the occasional factual error, it’s still a better bet than someone who has built up immunity to whatever pesky pathogens lurk in their tap.

Become repellent

Being repellent isn’t usually considered a good thing. But if you’re travelling in certain parts of the world you should take the time to make yourself positively repulsive – to mosquitoes only, of course. Spray alcohol-free DEET repellents on the exposed parts of your body and fend off those horrible mozzies.

Get under cover

Travel insurance won’t prevent you from getting sick in the first place, but if you need urgent medical care to prevent things from getting worse it offers some peace of mind. In some countries – we’re looking at you, America – health care can cost an arm and a leg. Which isn’t ideal since you’ll need your limbs to get home.

Bottle it up

In some of the world’s public toilets soap can be an endangered species. That’s why it’s always advisable to carry a small bottle of hand sanitiser: kill those germs before they can make you poorly.

Take to your feet

Some people become major greedy guts on holiday. Travel offers a great opportunity to explore a different cuisine, and food – and the people who make it – offer an insight into local culture. To avoid ballooning, walk instead of taking taxis or public transport. Not only will you get a fresh perspective on your destination, but you might burn enough calories to balance out your gluttony.

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